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Dark Carousel (Dark #30)(4)

By:Christine Feehan

“We met while working on art projects in Paris,” Genevieve supplied, deliberately taking the attention away from Charlotte. “Charlie was interning, learning art restoration from some of the greatest in the world, and I was painting. We became great friends.”
Charlotte casually reached for the napkin in front of Daniel, the one he’d been resting his hand on. She crumpled it up slowly, finger by finger, dragging it into her palm as if doing so absently, smiling and nodding to indicate the introduction in France was a good moment for them both.
It was difficult to keep her smile in place and she welcomed the opportunity to shift her attention from Daniel to Genevieve, because even with the object being new and fresh rather than older, as her talent preferred, she was getting enough images to know that Daniel and his friends had been stalking Genevieve and her for a long while. And they’d definitely been in France.
Her heart pounded hard. She saw flashes of the building where she’d gone to test her psychic abilities. Genevieve and she had gone in laughing, determined to have fun. It never occurred to either of them that they might be in danger or that the danger would follow them and possibly hurt others they loved.
Daniel and Vince had followed them back to the little studio they were renting together. She didn’t see them anywhere near where Genevieve’s grandmother lived, nor were there even the faintest memories of standing over the body after or during the time of the murder. She didn’t see them near her brother or his home, either.
Taking a deep breath she let go of the napkin. The three men had been in France, followed them from the Morrison Center, where Genevieve and Charlotte had done the psychic testing, and now had followed the two women to the United States. They were Americans, but from where, she wasn’t certain. She was frustrated with the fact that she didn’t get clear, detailed information like she did on older objects.
Vince continued his conversation with Genevieve, all about her painting and what she liked to paint, volunteering to be her next male model if she was looking for one. Daniel and Bruce seemed to be concentrating on her, and Charlotte was afraid for a moment that they might have asked her something while she was trying to gather information.
“You restore art?” Daniel asked, hitching closer to her, extending his arm along the back of her chair, fingers gliding along her bare skin, tracing the spaghetti straps on her blouse.She forced herself not to pull away, instead flashing him a small smile. “Yes. I specialize in restoring very old carousel horses, the wooden chariots and entire carousels. I can restore American carousels, but the ones I’m most interested in are from Europe. There isn’t a lot of call for that sort of thing outside of museums or private collections, and there’s even less here in the States, but it’s my first love.”
Daniel looked puzzled, as most people did. She couldn’t explain to them why she liked touching the old wood and feeling every groove in it, every carving. She loved knowing everything there was to know about the carver, long gone from the world, but so familiar to her once she’d touched the carver’s art piece.
She laughed softly at his expression. “I can see you don’t get it. The horses are unique, each one carved differently, some more than three hundred years ago. How cool is that? I was able to work on one that was carved during medieval times. For young knights to prepare for the jousting competitions, a rotating platform was used with legless wooden horses so they could practice their skills.” She couldn’t help the enthusiasm pouring into her voice in spite of the situation. She loved the fact that the carousel could be traced back all the way to the twelfth century, when the Arabs and Turks played a game on horseback with a scented ball. Italians and Spanish had observed the competition and referred to the game as “little war”: carosella, or garosello.
“Keep talking,” Daniel said gruffly. “I thought it was kind of silly, but it’s actually interesting.”
“Right?” She nodded her head, which helped her to avoid looking straight at him. She didn’t want to see the image of him driving a stake through a man’s heart. “A Frenchman got the idea to build a device with chariots and carved horses suspended by chains from arms attached to a center pole. It was used to train noblemen in the art of ring spearing. Ladies and children loved the device as much as or more than the noblemen.” She glanced at Genevieve. The strain was beginning to show on her friend’s face. Charlotte gave a little exaggerated sigh. “We should be going. We have to get up early tomorrow.”
She stood up before the three men could protest. She needed to get Genevieve out of there as quickly as possible before she gave away the fact that she was terrified. Charlotte was afraid of them as well, but she was determined to find out what was going on. The fact that the three men had followed them from France, found where they were staying and followed them to the club meant that Lourdes wasn’t safe anyway. They had to change tactics. They needed to quit burying their heads in the sand and find out what threatened them and why. 
“Thanks for the drinks. We’ll see you around sometime,” Genevieve said, flashing her million-dollar smile. She stood up as well, taking a step back as Vince climbed to his feet. Genevieve was tall, but he still towered over her.
“Give me your cell. Let me program my number in,” he said, all charm.
Genevieve’s gaze shifted to Charlotte’s, and Charlotte’s nod was nearly imperceptible. The last thing she wanted was for sharp-eyed Daniel to realize they were onto them. They’d been discouraging at first because they weren’t looking to pick up men, so they had that going in their favor. The three men were very good-looking and clearly used to easy conquests. Twice Charlotte had indicated to Daniel she wasn’t looking to hook up with anyone and he should move on to a sure thing. She had hoped, in the beginning, that he was interested in her only because she presented a challenge. Now she knew better.
Genevieve reluctantly took out her phone, but instead of handing it over, she programed Vince’s number in herself. Charlotte caught her arm as she passed her, already on her way out the door. She lifted a hand at the three men as Daniel protested, pulling out his phone.
“Seriously?” Charlotte smiled at him and waved. “You have an entire smorgasbord of hot women fawning all over you.” They had to move and they had to move fast. She knew the men would follow them, and that meant disappearing before they got outside. They’d have to get to their car, get out of the parking garage and find a place to hide, then wait for the men to come out.
“I didn’t spend all evening sitting with them,” Daniel protested.
“Maybe we’ll see you next time,” Charlotte said and deliberately hurried into the crowd, heading for the door. “Come on, Genevieve. We have to get the car and fast. We don’t have much time.”
Genevieve nodded, already fishing for her keys in her purse.
There were all kinds of ways to hunt for his quarry. Tariq Asenguard stared down from the balcony at the masses of people below. He and his partner, Maksim Volkov, had long ago converted the palatial theater into a dance club to bring in the crowds. He could stand up above them and look down all the way through four stories at the gyrating bodies below him.
Tariq had drawn up the plans for the renovations himself, making certain that the center was open, so one could see each dance floor and bar when looking over the railings to the floors below. The arrangement was unique, and customers loved it and returned as often as possible. The only place he couldn’t see was the basement, which he’d renovated for use as an underground club for the goth, grunge and vampire lovers that came out at night to live their lives the way they chose, accepted by others like them.
Every floor had a different type of music and drew in a large variety of people. The more diverse, the better for him. The better his hunting. He could hear their heartbeats and the blood pounding in their veins, calling to him. It was easy to hunt in the confines of the building with so many bodies packed in close.
He could use the eager men or women for sustenance when he was in need. It was easy enough to portray the image of the city’s resident playboy with a woman on either arm. He was slowly building a reputation. A rich, eligible bachelor, co-owner of one of the hottest nightclubs in the city. Women flocked to him. That was exactly the result he’d wanted when he’d come up with the idea. He had four other clubs in various cities, and each had a different partner, one who watched over the club while he was at his main residence.The design with the opening in the center of the dance floors was even more important now that he knew his greatest enemies had invaded his city. Vampires had gone underground. These weren’t the undead of old. They were thinking, technology-using, planning-a-war vampires. Sophisticated and organized. Tariq could scan minds for news of bizarre killings signaling the possibility of a vampire close, one taking over the humans in the area in order to create an army aboveground.
“Anything new?” Maksim came up behind him. He gripped the balcony and leaned down to observe the mass of bodies dancing on each floor below them.
“No. That worries me more than if I’d discovered someone tainted.” Tariq inhaled sharply. Frowned. “There is a scent . . .” He trailed off.